“I don’t take rejections as an attack to my person, I take them as opportunities to improve. My first four fellowship applications failed, I was successful the fifth time because I learned from the first four. So many aspects of life are like that!”
Dr Jacquiline Romero was born and raised in Manila. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics magna cum laude and a Master of Science in Physics from the University of the Philippines.
In 2008, Jacq decided the sun is a small price to pay for a chance to pursue her interests in quantum physics. She moved to Scotland for a PhD at the University of Glasgow where became part of the team that pioneered the use of spatial light modulators (SLMs) for single-photon measurements. Dr Romero explored both experimental and theoretical aspects of entanglement of spatial modes related to optical orbital angular momentum.
Missing the sunshine, Dr Romero moved to Brisbane in 2015 to work in the Quantum Technology Lab at The University of Queensland, where she is currently an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow. She continues her mission to extend quantum information using the transverse spatial modes of light.
In 2019, Dr Romero won one of two Westpac Research Fellowships in Australia, and one of fifteen L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women In Science International Rising Talent Awards.
What inspired you to do science, technology, engineering, mathematics and/or medicine? Have you always liked STEMM?
Maths! When I was eight, an uncle gave me a book on algebra word problems. I enjoyed translating the word problems into equations and using rules to find the solutions, it was fun. I loved physics in high school, I have dreamt of being a physicist since I was 15!
What support structures did/do you have in place that have facilitated your success?
Growing up in the Philippines where education is seen as a means for social mobility, I have always been encouraged to do well by my family and teachers. I never had to worry that I was “too geeky or nerdy” or “too ambitious”—none of the negative self-consciousness that can hold a young person back.
If you have had a career disruption, how did you manage to stay productive during this time – what helped you the most?
I did minimal work during my maternity leaves, not that I can do much with a newborn baby around anyway! I think women should embrace this kind of disruption and really enjoy it without guilt. While that does not sound productive, I find the break really refreshes the mind, encouraging productivity when upon return to work.
How do you cope with loss or rejection in your career (e.g. rejected papers, non-funded grants, loss of personnel, loss of employment)?
I mourn, evaluate, and try again. I don’t take rejections as an attack to my person, I take them as opportunities to improve. My first four fellowship applications failed, I was successful the fifth time because I learned from the first four. So many aspects of life are like that!
How can we change the organisational culture to improve balancing personal and professional commitments and be more inclusive of a diverse range of women?
Diversity (including gender diversity) should really be framed in the context of productivity and not just as “something nice to have”. Every company, university, strives to be productive, but unfortunately not everybody strives to be “nice”. It is also important to realise that changing culture is everyone’s responsibility, not just of senior leaders.
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